Mandel’s Musings: Knicks Shouldn’t Get Too Excited About Win Over Exhausted Spurs

Published on: 4th January, 2013

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Dallas Mavericks v New York Knicks
Mandel's Musings: Knicks Shouldn't Get Too Excited About Win Over Exhausted Spurs

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: Marcus Camby #23 of the New York Knicks waits to enter the game in the second half against the Dallas Mavericks on November 9, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.The New York Knicks defeated the Dallas Mavericks 104-94. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)  | read this item

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NEW YORK –  The good news for the Knicks and their fans came in different ways tonight as they defeated, in convincing fashion, the San Antonio Spurs, 100-83.

To dismantle the team with the best record (26-9) in the sport so thoroughly made everyone, from Knicks coach, Mike Woodson down to the players, feel like the team was back on track after its recent spate of losses.

But, it says here, not so fast despite all the positive signs from this win. Make no mistake, the Knicks played very well to defeat Gregg Popovich’s veteran-laden team.

They beat a Spurs team that had been riding a seven-game winning streak, and had not lost a game since a 112-106 setback at Denver on Dec. 18.

They held the Spurs, the NBA’s highest scoring team with a per game average of  105.9 points per game to just 83 points and 36.4% shooting from the floor.

Woodson’s charges also went back to doing the little things defensively, like talking and calling out picks and moving their feet, things they had forgotten about in recent games as they had sputtered to a 3-5 record in their past eight games.

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A wondrous win and certainly something Woodson could continue to build on with the defense-first approach to the game he learned at the knee of Bobby Knight, his college coach at Indiana back in the 1970s.

But, the reality of this win tonight was pretty obvious to all attendees, especially to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. His team, with its veteran core of Tim Duncan, 36, Tony Parker, 30, Stephen Jackson, 34, and Manu Ginobili, 35 was simply pooped. Out of energy. No gas left in the tank. Pop knew it after his team had played its fourth game in five nights, a torture even by NBA standards.

“They shot the hell out of it and I could see it wasn’t going to happen for us tonight,” Popovich said. “Just too low on fuel and their defense was too good. Bad combination, and then they made shots, which makes it even worse.”

If Popovich was hoping for a continuation of the recent Knicks defensive lapses, Woodson made sure that wouldn’t happen.

“Our defense was slacking the last 10 games or so. Our defense had kind of went the other way,” Woodson said. “We put a nice feel-good tape together to show our players how we started the season, that we were No. 1 in defense and on offense. There was some major slippage.”

Not tonight. No slippage and no shrinkage as in shrinking from their defensive responsibilities. The Knicks were able to hold the Spurs to only 28 made buckets out of 77 shots from the field and just nine of 34 (26.5%) from the three-point stripe.

As happy as the Knicks post-game locker room was tonight with a big win over an NBA elite team, players know what it feels like to be on a long road trip, with very little rest in-between games.

“After traveling so much, we were a little flat tonight,” said Ginobili. “We were a little tired in the second half but they did a great job and forced us to play bad.”

Ginobili has been at this for a long time. He looked exhausted even though he had only played 23 minutes tonight. He chose to be diplomatic but what he probably was thinking ran along the lines of, “we look forward to getting the Knicks on the court again after we’ve had our fair share of rest. Life in the NBA isn’t always fair but we’ll be ready to play them a lot better next time.”

But, tonight was a night for the Knicks to celebrate their big win over a Spurs team Woodson called prior to the game, “the best team in this league.”

It was also a night for the Knicks to use their tremendous depth to wear down an opponent that was already worn down. How could it have looked to Popovich to see the Knicks go to their bench late in the first quarter and bring in firepower like J.R. Smith, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Steve Novak to go along with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler?

Anthony likes the Knicks chances, especially when he’s the focus of opposing defenses.

“They were double-teaming, triple-teaming me every chance they got,” he said. “That’s their scheme, to try to take me out of the game. But, it’s just a matter of us making shots. Novak made shots. J.R. kept his streak alive of playing good basketball. Pablo (Prigioni) came in and led our team from the point guard position. Everybody contributed in their own way, today.”

That’s the big difference this season between the Knicks and most of the teams in the NBA. The New Yorkers can come at you in waves of firepower, and they can now guard you in ways this town hasn’t seen since the Pat Riley Knicks of the 1990s would knock you down and not help you back up. This team uses a little more finesse and court smarts than physicality but so far, it’s working to the tune of a 22-10 record, good for second best in the Eastern Conference.

But, no one should believe these Knicks are 17-points better than the San Antonio Spurs, whose gaudy record has come mostly against much stronger Western Conference teams.

There is something to be said for getting a team when they’re physically exhausted and applying the sleeper hold so they don’t get back up. The Knicks accomplished that, tonight, but they shouldn’t get that excited until their own old players can pass the litmus test of NBA scheduling cruelty, too.

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